A Closer Look at Marketing Automation: ACT-ONClaude Harrington 11.23.2015
Last week, we wrote an introductory post about marketing automation. This week, we wanted to take a closer look at the three market leaders whom we received demos from: Act-On, HubSpot and Marketo.
Although it may be tempting to compare all three and declare a winner, we don’t believe that such an approach is beneficial to anyone. Because the truth is that the value of these services will vary significantly by company and by circumstance. Instead, we would like to explore the amenities offered by each of these vendors and, ultimately, try to answer a much larger question: is marketing automation something that can help your business?
Today we will focus on ACT-ON.
Since it’s founding in 2008, Act-On has wisely had a good sense of who they are and, perhaps more importantly, who they are not. To stand out in an already crowded marketing automation industry, Act-On has mostly decided not to try and be the all-encompassing, everything-to-everyone solution. Instead, they’ve chosen to focus on smaller-sized marketing teams and providing these units with a specialized alternative to the big-boxed solution.
Whereas many of the other marketing automation companies are focused on scalability, Act-On’s primary interest appears to be intuitive efficiency. They boast that you can “manage your programs and campaigns with little—if any—reliance on your IT department.” For a small company with limited infrastructure, that’s a big deal. Especially for those who might initially be looking to simply test out a marketing automation solution. In that respect, Act-On can be a great resource for companies with small marketing units. But all of this is moot if the services themselves aren’t helpful. So let’s take a look at some of our favorite amenities that Act-On has to offer:
[Note: Several of the features below, to some degree of similarity, are also offered by other marketing automation platforms. Nevertheless, they have been included on this list because we found them to be particularly noteworthy]
1. Data Visualization: Information, while valuable, is truly only as valuable as whatever we’re able to extract from it. So to help users more easily make sense of what can often be long strings of data, Act-On offers features like the following:
Funnel-Report: To track progress through the customer journey
Lead-Scoring: To help prioritize prospects
Heatmap: To chart and track trends
2. Emphasis on Thought Leadership: To help attract inbound leads, Act-On places an emphasis on empowering users with avenues to demonstrate Thought Leadership. With this in mind, Act-On provides a variety of strategies and services to help distribute content deemed to be of higher value. Below are examples of a few of those tools:
Social Media Tools: Although just about every marketing automation service offers some kind of integration with social media, what we liked about Act-On’s approach was the easy-to-use calendar coordination
Content Market Command Center: Act-On’s dedicated content marketing coordinator makes it easy to organize downloadable materials, white papers and video links
Although tools like these do not, of course, help produce the actual content, they do make it more enticing to do so with all of these hubs in mind.
3. Transparency: In the past, unlike traditional stores, website owners had little information about the people who stopped by their digital shop. Maybe you’d know the number of visitors over a certain period of time, but that was about it. You didn’t know the first thing about who these people actually were.
Recently, however, that barrier of “visitor blindness” has begun to erode. With tools like those offered by Act-On, you can become aware of things like what e-mails have been opened (and when), as well as the behavior patterns of visitors from various IP addresses.
Anonymity, more and more, is becoming obsolete. But going back to what we said above—about the importance of what we can extract from information—brings us to the ultimate utility of a marketing automation service like Act-On. Since it tracks the customer journey from start to finish, information gleaned in the past does not get lost in the shuffle. Every piece of data obtained becomes part of a larger puzzle that provides insights into your prospects.
One final thing to mention about this “puzzle” and the advantages of marketing automation in general, is that it tends to be focused primarily on inbound marketing. This is mostly a good thing (and when we talk about HubSpot we’ll get into a bit more detail about why), but it’s important to factor this in when considering the allocation of your marketing efforts.
Because for many smaller companies, reaching out and generating names atop of the funnel is vitally important. And it’s not that these marketing automation companies over-promise outbound services they don’t deliver–that is not at all the case–but we just wanted to reiterate the emphasis on inbound marketing here as you navigate through the channels ahead…